Adam Barker’s new movie, “Mind of the Demon,” is a look into the personal and professional life of one of the fathers of motocross, Larry Linkogle. If you don’t run in those circles, Linkogle equates to one of the Z-Boys, but for motocross. So take what they did for skateboarding culture, and Larry was doing it 100 feet in the air at 60 miles an hour. Oh and with more drugs and underground fighting.
His film recently was awarded Best Documentary at the Bel Air Film Festival, and it’s screening at Slamdance Jan 23 & 26 as well as X-Dance Jan 24 — all in Park City, Utah. It’s an eerie look into a mind that first gave birth to, then rejected the now-popular extreme sport of freestyle motocross. So what makes a great rider and athlete like Linkogle tick? Why was he great, and what made him fall from grace? We pick director Adam Barker’s brain to find out.
MM: Tell us a little about the film.
AB: Well the Larry movie – well a little history on him, the sport of freestyle motocross is becoming a little more mainstream these days. But, it’s really a relatively new sport. It’s only 10 years old, and, at that point, the only way you could make a living on a dirt bike was racing. And it was a very NASCAR-ish feel. And, at that time there was a group of people that were trying to break away and to try and do some jumping, but the industry didn’t support it whatsoever. It was kind of a rugged start, but Linkogle was one of those guys.
There’s always that one guy in every sport that’s just a character and always goes for the media and say outrageous thing – and he was just a big part of creating that early vibe that took over and got the sport going. And, he, after kind of being in all the movies and the media – he got a world record for distance – he just kind of went: radio silence.
I’d heard that he had really fallen off, gotten super into drugs, had lost all his money. And I just got kind of curious, and looked into it. And so we just kind of embarked on working on a documentary. And when we first talked about it, it was important to both of us to not do something that was just a fluff piece. I just said that what was interesting about you, is that nobody really knows who you are. But if we do this, let’s do your friends, and your enemies, and get an equal voice and just try and figure it out. And he was down.
MM: How did Larry get started with his success?
AB: Larry just kind of built the whole beginning of freestyle motocross…He co-created the Metal Mulisha early on, which was like a big thing. He was the first guy ever to put a jump course at his house.
But starting even earlier than that, his Dad, you know, was in Vietnam. And he had post war traumatic stress really bad because he was in the shit. So, he comes back, has a kid, and he put a lot of pressure on Larry to win. And, talking to his Mom, she says Larry was actually a very quiet, well-behaved kid. Which is funny considering what he became in the motocross industry, but, at some point that pressure to win from his Dad just snapped him.
He started being outrageous on the race track, he just started rebelling, and it just came off him like a storm. He was over his sponsors, he was over his dad, and he would purposefully lose by doing jumps just to get the crowd going.
MM: So why isn’t he the king of motocross today
AB: Like I said, I wanted to interview everybody, you know, get both sides of the story. I wanted to get opposition as well, so I talked to a lot of the people that were super hardcore- messed-up and in his drug era. And, those guys gave us some insane interviews about…regret…really just held nothing back. Everything from jacking people to you name it. It was very hardcore.
Two days later we were at a coffee store, though, and we heard this guy we interviewed was dead. And, at first we thought it was just a rumor because, in this industry, you just hear rumors like that all the time. But it ended up being true. It was like 35 hours after this interview, he had an overdose and died. That footage is haunting – almost insane. It’s like, wow, all of the sudden, there’s kind of a message happening.
MM: Sounds like it was pretty clear he was into some rough shit.
AB: The whole industry just so fueled off of anarchy and rebellion, minus Travis Pastrana who was actually a successful racer. And most people deemed early freestyle motocross riders as failed racers. Early competitions were just…sometimes people would jump off and wrestle. It was just this whole kind of punk rock movement, and within that, Larry was just the king. Every time he was in a contest, every time he came on, you knew you were about to see something entertaining one way or another. If it’s not good riding, he’ll still do something wild.
He was really good at riding and he was really good at jumps. His biggest skills were in videos, though. He didn’t like what he called “ballerina stuff,” like throwing one leg out this way, then throwing the other out the other way, he just likes to go fast and huge. And that’s how he ended up getting the world distance record away from Johnny Airtime which was previously held by Evil Knievel.
MM: So where did he go wrong?
AB: I think where it started falling off for him – it was a combination of things. Things got a little pushy with the Metal Mulisha, and he kind of got pushed out of his own company. It’s definitely a heated topic, and there’s definitely two sides to that story, but that’s my little slice.
Deserved or not, he felt his own company leaving. Mix that with, as the sport progressed, it was starting to get momentum when everybody had thought it going to just be a flash in the pan. And, as that happened, guys started training and they started to make it just like every other sport. Just string your run – do this trick, do that trick. It became too like supercross, and everything he hated about that. And Larry just wasn’t having it. So, in a weird way, the sport he helped create, he started despising that as well.
And injuries. He had some really bad injuries, and some of them are in the movie. He had a handlebar go all the way through his stomach. And in the XXX movie, the one that was like the James Bond of extreme sports, filming for that without a helmet on, the fuckin’ guy that was running the helicopter missed his cue, went to low, and Larry hit the bottom of the helicopter with his head. He got driven into the ground and the front of his brain detached from his skull. He had to have all these surgeries, and then he got onto pain killers.
When you are running as fast as you can it just has to implode. You just can’t sustain a career like that on into your 50’s. That much aggression has a shelf life, so it just quickly went into the typical story. Any motocross guy…the list of bones they broke that they can rattle off is just unbelievable. It’s all of ‘em. So the painkiller prescriptions are just like candy. They can get anything they want…..And with him, he’s got that addictive personality. He’s always looking for that rush, and if he’s not going to get it on his bike, it quickly became drugs which went into, you know, the whole spectrum of drug addiction. Pretty much wherever, whatever, as much as you can.
MM: Sounds like it got petty bad.
AB: Yeah, it’s then that you start doing the things that you regret. Just, really getting involved with the wrong people. I don’t want to say any names, but not only the guy that we interviewed that was super addicted, but also some really dark, underworld fighting. Just evil shit. Dudes making two guys fight that don’t want to fight for a video. It was so sad because you remember the old Larry that was just so excited.
I think the X Games was a good pivot point. There was such an energy in him, and to see him really fall so far off. His wife’s account was “it is like Frankenstein and a puppy mixed together,” depending on whether or not he was on the drugs. He would really fall off and, without meaning to, he’d be neglecting his son and things like that.
MM: Was there a moment where somebody told him he needed to get his shit together?
AB: Um. No. And that’s what I tried to work with in the movie. I tried to really pivot it off the other guy’s death, and it really just wasn’t fitting right. With Larry, it was a really slow progression. He had a lot of friends die, he had a lot of friends in jail. He had a lot of testing the water with a counselor, and then not ever showing up again.
He didn’t quite have a breaking point, I don’t think. He had a slow grind – a lot of up and down. And he just slowly got out of the bad crowd, and slowly started lessening his dosages. 2 years of constantly trying.
He says himself, “I dunno. It’s day by day,” but he’s got a good relationship with his kids, and he’s feeling good and he’s stable.
People are impressed, now, just cause he’s still alive. That’s what’s getting him high fives now. And that’s encouraging him….and I think it’s going to only get better from here. But that wasn’t enough for Larry. He didn’t want to just survive, he wanted to come back full-throttle, so for the end, we built a massive quarter pipe for him. This had been done sort of, but nobody had ever done one that went completely to vert. So we built it and Larry just gunned it. It’s pretty incredible that after all this he’s still charging and charging hard. Amazing.